MLS Conference Semifinals Recap: Canadian sides romp, New York falls

by RYAN BRISTER

The second legs of the conference semifinals in Major League Soccer were largely devoid of drama. Only one tie was close late, and only one team was able to fight back from their first leg deficit.

We are left with an all-Canadian affair in the East, and the unexpected match-up of Seattle and Colorado out West.

New York City FC 0-5 (0-7 agg.) Toronto FC

Toronto removed all doubt early on in a dominant win over NYCFC. A quick turn and goal by Sebastian Giovinco gave TFC a huge lead in the tie just six minutes into the second leg. He would score another from the penalty, and Jozy Altidore added powerful volley before the opening half hour was done.

That left NYCFC needing six goals, which needless to say they did not get. Patrick Viera was criticized for playing defensively in the first leg, but opening things up proved disastrous. Jonathan Osorio made things worse for the hosts early in the second half. The scoring paused for a while before Giovinco completed his hat trick in stoppage time.

NYCFC was much improved this season, but a result like this will leave a bad taste in their mouth all winter long. Toronto is steamrolling heading into a Conference Final against their hated rivals.

FC Dallas 2-1(2-4 agg.) Seattle Sounders

Dallas put up a fight, but couldn’t climb out of their deep hole against Seattle. Tesho Akindele’s headed goal in the 25th minute put the hosts back into the tie. Dallas was ascendant in the first half, and looked as though the comeback might be within their reach. Still, the Sounders came close to get an away goal in the first half. Chris Seitz had to make a diving save just to push a Nicolas Lodeiro free kick onto the post.

Seattle was better after the break, and got that crucial away goal. Nicolas Lodeiro scored it, his third of the series, to give the Sounders a massive advantage once more. Dallas responded quickly, to their credit, with Maxi Urruti finishing off a chance just a couple minutes later. But they still needed three goals that would not come.

New York Red Bulls 1-2 (1-3 agg.) Montreal Impact

Once again, Montreal frustrated the Red Bulls and killed them on the counter. Things started off well for the hosts, however. Pressure by Gonzalo Veron resulted in Evan Bush giving away an early penalty. Sacha Kljestan stepped up, but his attempt was denied brilliantly by Bush, who made up for his mistake.

That saved penalty felt like a turning point in the match. Rather than leveling the aggregate scoreline, the Red Bulls remained behind. Kljestan spent significant time receiving treatment for a bloody nose. And after halftime, the Impact extended their advantage. It was a great individual effort by Ignacio Piatti, who cut onto his left foot and rocketed a shot past Luis Robles.

Needing three goals, the Red Bulls’ attack looked alternately anemic and unlucky. Montreal bunkered down, and the Red Bulls’ chances were wasted until Bradley Wright-Phillips scored a deflected goal. Rather than sparking a comeback, though, the Red Bulls saw their chances extinguished by Piatti a few minutes later.

Montreal deserves credit for their efforts on defense across the two legs, and the danger they posed going forward. Still, RBNY had chances, and they will be kicking themselves for not converting many of them.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 (1-1 agg., 3-1 pen.) LA Galaxy

Colorado scored a wondergoal and survived penalties to advance over LA. There were few moments of brilliance, but the only goal was certainly one. Shkelzen Gashi took a chance with a shot from distance, which looked like a boomerang with the way it bent and went in off the post.

Gashi later had to leave the game at halftime due to an ankle injury. It was a bruising game for both sides, and the soccer was not the most exciting. The Galaxy were on their heels for much of the match, but the Rapids lacked the cutting edge required to get a second goal. Penalties felt like a given even before extra time began.

The penalties arrived eventually, and LA struggled with them. Giovani Dos Santos sent his shot over the bar. Ashley Cole’s was saved by Tim Howard. And as Colorado hit all of their penalties, Jeff Larentowicz’s failed attempt ended LA’s season.

It is hard to imagine a win being more typical of the Rapids this season than this. It was rarely pretty, but they got the job done.


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